ST. PAUL — Farming is a long-term business where decisions made today affect outcomes tomorrow. Farmers plant a crop in the spring and wait until fall to see how the crop turns out. They build a new livestock facility and wait years for the investment to pay back. They select the genetics of a dairy herd and wait three, four or five years to see the results in the bulk tank. Cutting corners on essentials today often means lower returns and less productivity tomorrow.
Close observers agree that the Supreme Court’s Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms decision is a big deal, but many of us disagree about what it actually means. As a farmer and advocate, I view the ruling as a major victory because it helps determine who controls our seed sup-plies and our food sover-eignty. This ruling, issued in June, declares that it’s still illegal to sell or plant Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready alfalfa seed.
Monsanto also claims the Supreme Court’s ruling as a victory, stating that it “unequivocally overturns the ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa.” Yes, the Supreme Court agreed that the Dist-rict Court had overstepped its boundaries by imple-menting the injunction to ban planting of the crop, but it also upheld that the USDA must complete an environmental impact statement before approv-ing genetically engineered alfalfa for planting. A ban on the crop will remain in effect until the USDA pre-pares a full assessment.
Has Big Ag gotten too big? And do consumers really benefit from the low prices farmers earn for selling livestock and grain to food giants like Cargill, Smithfield, and Tyson? After two decades standing idly by while those companies and seed behemoth Monsanto swallowed their competitors, a new Department of Justice anti-trust team is vowing to bust up companies that have gotten so big they’re thwarting competition. And a new sheriff is taking the issue to the people.
The outlook for bovine tuberculosis in northwest Minnesota is improving, according to Dr. Bill Hartmann, state veterinarian who with Board of Animal Health representatives spoke to the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committee this month.
During the past half-century, atrazine has become one of the most widely used herbicides in Minnesota and the rest of the Midwest. Unfortunately, it is also top of the list in another category: It is the most commonly detected pesticide in our state’s surface and groundwater.
The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment delivered a petition with more than 25,000 signatures from individuals around the country to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Oct. 20. It demanded that the agency immediately suspend the practice of providing guaranteed and direct loans for new and expanded specialized hog and poultry facilities. More than three weeks have passed without a response.
Frank Jones, Paul Sobocinskiand Ron Perry
November 19, 2009
Make no mistake, our grandchildren will have the final say on whether or not we met the challenge of creating a new clean-energy economy, or if we failed — succumbing to political special interests promoting misinformation for short-term gain. That is why I held off on supporting the American Clean Energy Security Act until it was certain the bill would meet the challenges facing our nation.
Congress is considering legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act. If passed, the act would make it easier for people to join labor unions and bargain for higher wages and better benefits. This, in turn, would provide some much-needed stimulus for rural economies.
Richard A. Levins
June 26, 2009
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